To "dock" a pastry means to prick a pie crust with a fork before baking. This technique is a simple way to poke holes in the pastry dough. This allows the steam to escape so that the pie crust doesn't puff up in the oven. Usually, this technique is used when blind baking a pie crust before filling.
You can "dock" a pastry by pricking it with a fork or using a tool specifically made for this task. Unless you bake pies every day, a fork will be just fine. If you don't want to use a fork to crimp the edge, you can use your hands to pinch or flute the edge of the crust with your thumb and index finger. Those baking on the regular, however, should look into docking tools you can buy that will dock a crust before you put it in the pie pan.
How to Dock a Pie Crust
You might hear a pastry chef tell their assistant to "dock the pie crust" before baking it so that it will lay flat and not puff up. The holes made by the fork or docking tool will fill up when the pastry bakes, so you don't have to worry about the filling leaking through the crust to the pie pan below. Be sure not to make the holes too big, as they should be large enough to vent the steam from the pie, but not so big that the holes tear the pastry apart.
Dock your pie dough in two simple steps:
- Roll out your pie dough. After you've rolled out the dough, you can prick holes into it so that the steam escapes while it's baking. Otherwise, you will have lots of bubbles and pockets in your crust which will create an unbalanced surface for your choice of filling.
- Press the dough into the pan. Once it's ready, shape the edge by pricking it around with a fork, including the sides. You can also change up this method by using pie weights, which serves the same purpose.
Bubbles Aren't the Worst Thing
Docking is helpful for tart crusts, crackers, pizza, flatbreads, and more. Without docking, it's true that cracks in the dough can lead to leaks, and leaks can create a messy end-product and a hazard in the kitchen. Other times, however, it just creates some bubbles in the dough. Some culinary experts, like chef Mark Bello of Pizza a Casa Pizza School in NYC, believe that "bubbles are extra points." A toasted bubble doesn't have to be a bad thing—it can create character, expansion, and a perfectly edible bite.
Dock If It Makes Sense
Ultimately, use of the docking technique depends on the desired end result and is most prevalent in baking. Even pet treats are docked before they're baked. Make sure to make incisions in the surface of your crusts, breads, and rolls before baking so that the dough rises just the way you need it to for your recipe. Learn how to make a delicious butter pastry crust from scratch for a sweet and savory pie. In less than an hour, you'll be a pro at pate brisee and docking.